Monday, July 16, 2007

My Car

Warning: This post will be long, and there is a good chance that it will turn into a rant. But I’ll try to make it as matter-of-fact as I can.

I had really been hoping to avoid this, but alas, it was not meant to be. I’ve been having car troubles again. I’d wanted to be able to get my new car, before having to dump more money into the old one, but that’s not going to happen soon enough. Here’s what happened:

My car had been having some trouble starting, lately. I would turn the key and nothing would happen except for a loud click, and then all of the dashboard lights (and the A/C) would come on, but the engine wouldn’t start. But then I’d turn the key again, and it would turn over, and everyone would be happy. I would foolishly forget about it, until the next time it happened.

Well, last Saturday, we were supposed to go home and visit with my family. We drove to the gas station—with no trouble starting—got gas, and then were going to head on our way, when… you guessed it. The car wouldn’t start. But this time, no matter how many times I turned the key, nothing happened. We finally managed to get it into neutral, and push it out of the way so that other cars could get gas, and I had to call for a tow.

The tow truck came, and brought me and my dead car to the dealer’s. Luckily, we were close to home, so Andrea just walked home, rather than crowding into the tow truck with myself and the other two guys.

I was lucky that the shop at my dealer’s was open. They weren’t able to fix the car right away, but at least I could talk to the guy and explain the problem. I’m embarrassed to say that I also, while I was there, had the summer tires put back on the car. Yes, you read that right, people: It was July, and I still had my winter tires on the car. But this time, I told them that I didn’t want them to store the winter tires; I was planning to sell the car, so no sense leaving the tires at the dealer anymore.

Ironically enough, while I was there, there was another guy getting an oil change on his car, and they had a conversation similar to this:

  • The Conversation
  • The Guy
  • (joking)
  • You know, if I keep getting lousy service here, I’m gonna get rid of this car and just get myself a Honda.
  • The Dealer
  • (also joking)
  • Hey, go ahead, and good riddance! I mean, if you want to pay that much more money for repairs and maintenance.
  • The Guy
  • (turning serious)
  • But you know, my brother has a Honda—his whole family has Hondas, actually—and, get this, they actually claim that they pay less for repairs than people with American cars do!
I don’t remember what the dealer said in response to that, but it was something along the lines that the guy’s brother didn’t know what he was talking about. I had to exert a lot of self-control to keep myself from laughing. Were they serious? Did they really believe that it costs more to maintain a Honda than a GM? Seriously? Anyone I’ve known who’s had a Honda would tell you the opposite. I know, from my own experience, that my Cavalier has spent a lot of time up on the hook, because of various problems. The conversation was especially funny since I’m currently in the process of getting a Honda myself. Well… in the process of getting into the process.

Fast-forward to Monday. The dealer called me, and told me that the problem was the battery. I didn’t believe him; how could it be the battery? When I turned the key, the battery was the only thing that was working! All of the lights on the dash came on, even the A/C came on—how could it be the battery? Unfortunately, I don’t know from cars; he just said hey, they have this test, and they ran it on the battery, and he had the results in front of him, and the results said that the battery needed to be replaced. So I said okay; replace the battery. But when you’ve replaced it, check the starter, too. He said that of course he would.

I picked the car up on Monday afternoon, and it seemed to be working.

Fast-forward to Friday. I was leaving work, a bit early, and had a coworker with me. I’d promised to give her a ride home, because she takes the TTC; she could get home in 30 minutes, instead of an hour or two, like usual. I don’t get to drive her home very often, because it’s out of my way, but since I wasn’t picking up Andrea after work, I had a chance to help her out. But when we got into the car, and I turned the key to hear the familiar click, my heart sank. (Incidentally, I realize that most of this paragraph, so far, has been irrelevant. I only mention it because it was embarrassing to have someone else in the car with me, when the car died.) We sat in the car, for a few minutes, and I kept trying every once in a while, before we gave up, and she took the bus home.

I went back up to my desk, to call the dealer, and see what they were going to do about it. As it turns out, nothing.
  • The Conversation with the Dealer
  • serna
  • Hi. I had my car in on Saturday, because it wouldn’t start.
  • Dealer
  • Yes, I remember you.
  • serna
  • It’s happening again. The car won’t start, with the same symptoms as it had last time, and I’m wondering what you’re going to do about it.
  • Dealer
  • I’m not sure what you mean by “what I’m going to do about it.” My tests showed that the battery needed to be replaced, so I replaced it. I have the test results right here.
  • serna
  • And once you replaced the battery, you tested the starter again?
  • Dealer
  • Yes. Look, why don’t you have the car towed back again, and we’ll take another look at it—
  • serna
  • I’m across the city.
  • Dealer
  • Oh. I guess that’s too far, for the tow truck. Maybe you can bring it to another dealer, and if it turns out that we put in a defective battery, then it’ll be covered by the warranty, and they’ll replace it.
That’s all paraphrased, of course. So, in other words, he feels he did what he was supposed to, by replacing the battery, so if there’s something else wrong with the car, well then, that’s not his fault.

At this point, I was feeling pretty impotent. I told him that I didn’t think it was the battery; I told him that I thought it was the starter. But what do I know about cars, right? He seemed to have all of the cards.

So I want back down to the parking lot, and, after trying to start it again (and again, and again), I finally gave in, and called a tow truck. When the tow truck got there, he had me try it again, in case it just needed a jump start or something, but when I turned the key, he only had to hear it once: “Yep, that’s the starter alright.” This time, I had it brought to a Canadian Tire, instead of the dealer. They told me they couldn’t look at it right away—by this time, it was about 5:30—but that they’d have it fixed first thing Saturday. I got a call a couple of hours later, confirming that yes, it was the starter. They’d have it replaced first thing in the morning, and it would probably be ready about 8:30 or 9:00.

Which is what happened. They replaced the starter, which cost less than the dealer had charged for replacing the battery. First thing Saturday morning, I had my car back.

So we’ve made a decision: We’re going to stop by the Honda dealership, and begin work on getting our hands on a new car. In fact, we’re going to go today, after work. We just don’t want the hassle of dealing with my old car anymore—who knows when it will break down next? We’d been waiting for the chance to test drive a hybrid, before taking the plunge, but I don’t know how much longer that’s going to take. And it’s not like we have any other options, right now; if we want to get a hybrid, our only realistic choice is the Civic.

Get ready to read a post, probably about six months from now, when I lament my stupidity, for buying a car without test driving it…


Anonymous said...

I got angry reading this post, on your behalf. I hate going to the mechanics for this very reason. I don't know enough to tell them they're wrong with their diagnosis, so I have little recourse but to shut up and pay and hope they're right.

Don't you have a standard? Couldn't you have bump-started the car to get it to the dealership?

chelle said...

huh...worst scenario..good thing you decided to stopped on that owners usually hates car repairs, as you'll just end up spending a lot of money onto it..kinda little bit frustrated when i had to change my mufflers..good thing to have vibrant mufflers now..what i usually do now is a monthly inspections on my car..its much better than facing frequent car problems..

Anonymous said...

Excellent use of the word "impotent".